- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Professional wrestling may no longer have the mesmerizing stranglehold it once had upon the macho male demographic, but it still garners enough of a rabid fan base to validate the release of more multimedia mayhem.

WWE Day of Reckoning 2 from THQ for GameCube, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99; Tombstone — History of the Undertaker, $34.98, and WrestleMania 21, $29.98, from WWE Home Video for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated TV 14.

Before players even attempt to virtually enter the ring in the latest wrestling game from THQ, they can learn the art of threatening, pummeling, posturing and humiliating — which has come to define the World Wrestling Entertainment experience — with some recent digital video archives.

First, to get an overview of the competition that mirrors the game action, I suggest the WrestleMania 21 DVD set that offers the complete pay-per-view spectacle held in the Los Angeles Staples Center earlier this year.

The first two discs contain nine matches and offer some really funny movie parodies featuring several well-spoken wrestlers. The “mania” portion of the show culminates with the world championship bout between Triple H, who enters the arena backed by a live performance from Motorhead, and former friend Batista.

I was really amazed that professional wrestling shenanigans have not changed much over the years. The championship battle featured kicks to various body organs, smacks with folding chairs, the obligatory manager strangling the opponent while the ref is preoccupied, Academy Award-caliber emotions after a slam into the turnbuckle and near-pins broken up by the last-second arrival of meddling wrestlers.

The set’s third disc, devoted to the latest WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, is a nostalgic two-hour jaunt loaded with classic clips as the likes of Cowboy Bob Orton, the Iron Sheik and Hulk Hogan are inducted.

Next, delving into the history of one of the superstars will come in handy when looking for the perfect attributes from which to create a wrestler in the video game.

Although I am more of an Andre the Giant fan, I found the gothic exploits of the Deadman to be thoroughly enjoyable in the DVD tribute set, Tombstone — History of the Undertaker.

Lovers of finely formulated promotion will appreciate, through a trio of discs, six hours of laugh-out-loud hilarity (um, I mean, serious drama), as the 328-pound Texan known for his deadly personality unleashes 15 years of pain upon his opponents.

The WWE legend chews up scenery with the best of the bunch as 21 classic bouts find him confronting Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret Hart and Kane as his manager, Paul Bearer, assists in the silliness.

Once fans have digested the wrestling reality, it’s time to become one with the WWE through a video game that does a remarkable job of re-creating the on-camera life and style of a professional wrestler.

THQ’s Day of Reckoning 2 offers players more than 45 characters from which to choose, including current superstars Stacy Keibler, Batista, Triple H, Big Show and Randy Orton as they take part in solo and group competitions involving such painful-sounding matches as Hell in the Cell.

A story mode really defines the action as it demands the creation of a wrestler that leads the player on a violent journey to regain the world heavyweight champion title.

I could write paragraphs finely scrutinizing strategic game features such as the stamina meter, submission system and momentum shift. However, players simply need to remember to not exhaust their avatar and look for an opening against opponents to perform some wicked maneuvers.

An enormous training tutorial helps hone the slaps, kicks and holds, while match winners who accumulate enough cash can enter the WWE store to upgrade their wrestler’s personality and costumes and unlock new locales.

The game does suffer from the lack of commentary by over-caffeinated ringside announcers, as well as rants by the stars. Additionally, having to unlock such familiar legends as The Rock, Mankind, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart is way too involved.

Day of Reckoning 2 still delivers all of the rude and excessively violent nuances of the pseudo-sport, including its sleazier side. I’ll leave it up to the psychiatrists and censors to analyze the bizarreness of allowing teenage boys to control virtual females in the Bra and Panty matches, but parents should be aware of the degrading stupidity.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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